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Farmer Not Allowed to Adopt Grandmother's Name

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Farmer Not Allowed to Adopt Grandmother's Name

Photo: A screenshot from RÚV

Hlynur Snæbjörnsson, a sheep farmer in North Iceland, has been denied the right to legally adopt the name of his grandmother because he is a man, RÚV reports. This spring, Hlynur, whose full name is Sigurður Hlynur Snæbjörnsson, decided to make good on his parents' wish to name him after his grandmother, and change his name to Sigríður Hlynur in her honor. His petition to change his name was rejected, however, because Sigríður is only recognized as a female name.

Hlynur’s parents had expected to have a girl, he explained. “I was supposed to be named after my grandmother, who had actually been dead for forty years when I was born. But that didn’t work, and I got the name Sigurður Hlynur [instead].”

Now fifty, Hlynur, who also runs a travel business with his wife and is a participating member of his municipal council, decided that he wanted to see his parents’ original wishes through and officially change his name. “I want to go all the way and just have my grandmother’s name—not some approximation of it.” The Naming Committee’s rejection of his request came as a surprise he said, given that there is a precedent of other names that have traditionally only been used for one gender being approved for use by both men and women, such as Auður, a traditionally female name which was approved as a male name in 2013, and Blær, which was also approved as a female name after a long and very public debate that same year.

Hlynur plans to appeal the committee’s decision, and is committed to taking the matter further, if necessary. Currently, he uses the name Sigurður very little. Case in point: his children bear the patronymic Hlynsson and Hlynsdóttir, or son and daughter of Hlynur, rather than Sigurðsson or Sigurðsdóttir—son and daughter of Sigurður. When asked if his family and friends would support his name change to Sigríður, he is unequivocal.

“I know that many acquaintances and friends of mine would clearly call me Sigríður or even Sigga,” he said. “The law states that a girl should be given a woman’s name and a boy should be given a man’s name. I’m neither and it’s not a matter of giving me a name—I want to take this name for myself.”

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